Previously on this “Classic Albums” feature we’ve discussed how “Pet Sounds” inspired this ground-breaking album and how in turn how “Bridge Over Troubled Water” as inspired by it, so I’d say it’s about time we take a look at this very influencing piece of music.
The genesis of the “Sgt. Pepper’s” album comes from a particularly trying time for The Beatles. They were beginning to become disillusioned with the concept of live performances as they felt the events were no longer about the music. John Lennon even remarked that they could wheel four statues on stage and it would have the same effect. The real tipping point came when the band did back-to-back Asian and American tours. It’s said that the relatively calm and quiet Asian crowds finally let the band hear the music they were playing and their quality had suffered greatly. The poor performances continued in the Western part of the tour where their audiences were lacking thanks to the controversy surrounding Lennon’s infamous “bigger than Jesus” remarks.
After the disastrous tour, the band came to the decision that they were done with those days and went on an extended vacation. Rumours swirled that the band was breaking up and that this was the end of The Beatles. Little did they know, the band was coming up with the seeds of what would be considered by many as their greatest album and indeed the greatest album of all time. It all started with a fairly simple concept, “What if we pretended we weren’t The Beatles?”
Paul McCartney came up with the idea of an Edwardian-era military band and it evolved into the idea of doing a whole album as this fictional band. It was one of the earliest examples of a concept album and it gave the band the opportunity to experiment with their sounds. This came at a time of great transition for the band but also culture in general. The “Flower Power” movement was very much in full swing and this album very much embraced the idea of that era; experimenting.
Like many albums of this importance to the history of music, it’s hard to single out one song above the rest. It becomes even harder with an album like this as the whole thing is a connected concept and should very much be considered as a whole. But if you had to choose one song that best encapsulates the album, it must be “A Day in the Life”. From the suggestive lyrics, to the psychedelic feel, and the “dream sequence” in the middle, it is clear The Beatles are trying something new without being too jarring to enjoy.